‘Something special’: Koeman relishes Euro 2024 semi-final clash with England

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Ronald Koeman savoured the prospect of a Euro 2024 semi-final against England as “something special” after the Netherlands booked their place with a thrilling comeback win over Turkey.

Two of Europe’s old powers will meet in a major tournament for the first time since 1996 after Stefan de Vrij and an own goal from Mert Muldur overturned a half-time deficit. Koeman’s players rode their luck late on but saw out a storm of pressure and face what promises to be a high-octane occasion in Dortmund.

“For the whole nation it is something special,” Koeman said, reflecting on the fact that the Netherlands had not reached a Euros semi-final since 2004. “We are a small nation and to be part of the semi-finals with England, France and Spain we are really proud to get the opportunity.”

Twelve days previously Koeman had criticised his side for a poor performance against Austria but this time he praised their attitude and application in a deafening, sometimes impossibly intense, environment at Olympiastadion. “It was really an emotional match,” he said. “We had a big heart and we sometimes get criticism about that – that we don’t have that compared to other nations. The players showed a big heart after going 1-0 down. We had to suffer but finally it is a great success.”

England were taken the distance by Switzerland earlier in the evening but Koeman played down any notion that extra time and penalties will have taken a greater toll on Gareth Southgate’s team. “If you win the match that always gives a good feeling,” he said. “We need to recover, like England. It is not a physical difference between them and us. We played on the same day, we need to travel like them. It is not the physical [aspect] that will decide the result.”

Asked if he would have a preferred final opponent, Koeman offered a clear choice. “First of all we need to fight to win the semi-final,” he said. “It will be a great night on Wednesday between two big nations historically. If we play the final, my preference is Spain because we had France in the group stage.”

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The Turkey manager, Vincenzo Montella, whose players were denied by some last-ditch defending and a brilliant stoppage-time save from Bart Verbruggen, saw honour in defeat. “I think we are among the top five in the European Championship,” he said. “We are proud that we have gained an identity by feeling our whole country behind us and adopting our strategy. Our players should be kissed on the forehead. We should be really proud: we have come this far, but could have achieved even more.”

Source: theguardian.com

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